From Felix Ikem, Nsukka
The people of Lejja, an ancient Community in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State have honoured four of their distinguished sons for their achievements in the community and society at large.
The event which was organised by the members of the community home and abroad tagged “Lejja Hall of Fame Honours their Icons” had emeritus Bishop of Nsukka Catholic Diocese Most Rev. Dr Francis Okobo honoured with Distinguished Award.
Rev. Monsignor Raphael Eze, Mr. Sylvester Madubuattah and Chief Cletus Opata were awarded with Posthumous Distinguished Awards of the community at the weekend.
In his opening remarks Chief Paschal Okolie, the chairman of the occasion and Special Adviser to Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi said his being the chairman of the event was presidential as his ways crossed that of the four awardees in many ways.
“I am delighted to chair and be part of this location today as as I have come in one way or the other in contact with the four awardees.
“I was in the ministry of finance when Opata was the commissioner for education,” he said.
In a welcome address, the chairman, Central Planning Committee of the occasion Prof Athansius Eze, said that the four awardees are the pioneer recipients of the town’s “Distinguished Awards” whom he described as “iconic sons”.
According to him, “the story of modern Lejja began in 1956 when our first Catholic priest was ordained in the person of Rev. Monsignor Raphael Eze.
“Sylvester Madubuattah became the first graduate from a conventional university in 1964.
“Chief Cletus Opata was the first successful partisan politician who brought Lejja to the limelight in the 1970s, by attracting the first secondary school to Lejja in 1977, and its upgrade to Federal Government Girls’ College in 1993.
“In 1990, the first Bishop of Nsukka Catholic Diocese was a Lejja son: Most Rev. Dr Francis Okobo.
“The quartet represents Lejja’s heroes and great minds, living or dead,” he said.
Prof. Eze however, called on Governor Ugwuanyi to assist the community in development projects, even as he reminds him the promise he made when a delegation of the town visited him in Government House, Enugu
“In August 2020, Bishop Okobo led some stakeholders in Lejja that paid you a courtesy visit were you promised to ashphalt Nsukka–Lejja–Aku road before the year ended.
“Even as a part of that road has been built by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, we pray you to at least build this road from Nguru to FGGC, Lejja,” he said
The community also appealed to Ugwuanyi to immortalize the name of one of the awardees, Chief Hon. Cletus Opata, a dogged fighter for the Nsukka cause, who as education commissioner opened and approved 68 secondary schools across Wawa land.
Speaking further Prof. Eze said “the Lejja Hall of Fame Secretariat Project was conceived to serve several purposes for the community. The secretariat is sited contiguous to Otobo Ugwu, which for over 40 years has been a tourist site, as foreigners and dons have been visiting to excavate and examine the stones/minerals therein for research.
A tourism site has been envisaged even by the state government. This multimillion-naira project when completed will serve visitors to Otobo Ugwu: they will relax and compile their reports in comfort, for there will be a conference hall.
“The guest rooms and indoor games that will be provided will create a conducive environment for a little holidaying by visitors. Furthermore, as the name implies, it will be used to preserve the relics of our honoured eminent personalities and other friends of Lejja who have contributed significantly to the development of Lejja.
“More importantly, the 2,000-seat capacity hall will serve as a hub of activities for great events in Lejja. We therefore call on His Excellency, our distinguished guests and all lovers of our community to show their goodwill towards this project.”
Chief Okolie who also represented the Governor at the occasion assured the community that he will take their message to the Governor.
The highpoint of the occasion was
laying the foundation of the Hall of Fame Secretariat Complex and the induction of the four awardees into the Community Hall of Fame.